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UK water shortages causing havoc? Spare a thought for Cape Town

By: stagedoorscribbler - March 5, 2018

Archbishop Desmond Tutu - supporting water conservation in Cape Town. Photo by Hattie Miles

We don’t cope with extreme weather at all well in this country. When the big freeze bit as a swathe of snow, ice and storms rolled across the country late last week the effect was devastating.

It left passengers stranded overnight on trains, cars stuck for hours as traffic on main roads ground to a halt, while supplies of milk, bread and other staples vanished from supermarket shelves and post remained both uncollected or delivered.  Hard to believe that essentially it only lasted for two days.

Then it stopped snowing and the sun came out and everyone briefly rejoiced. But the troubles weren’t quite over. The thaw that followed wreaked its own havoc, causing burst pipes and water shortages. Now millions of people across the southern part of the UK have been urged to use "as little water as possible” with homes, schools and even hospitals facing shortages as the damage is repaired. Horrible isn’t it? However in a day or two, possibly less, most things will be back to normal. Whatever normal is.

Spare a thought for the poor people of Cape Town, South Africa, where ongoing drought has meant that a lack of water has become the norm. Earlier this year rapidly diminishing reservoir supplies meant that a crisis was declared and a raft of emergency measures were put on standby. For a while it looked as though Day Zero - the day that the water would officially run out would be in April. It has now been put back to July but when and if it happens what is left of the city’s water supply will be shut off and most of the Cape Town’s four million residents will have a to join queues for water rations. 

In the meantime many of the city’s big names and celebrities, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have publicly  endorsed campaigns that encourage responsible user of water and the conservation of vital supplies. Long-term plans include desalinisation plants, industrial scale waste-water recycling and tapping aquifers deep beneath the city.  It just shows that, hard as it might seem to believe, we were actually  relatively lucky with our extreme weather event. It’s true that a few people in the UK will have suffered badly and for them it must have been truly awful but for the vast majority it was little more than a temporary inconvenience. Now imagine living in Cape Town.